Farmington River Report 10/1/20: low, slow, and still crowded

I did a series of lightning raids on three spots yesterday within the permanent TMA. (I only had 90 minutes to fish.) The method was nymphing, both indicator and tight line. I found one fish that wanted to jump on. The other two marks were blanks. Even in these low, slow conditions there were anglers everywhere. Usually this time of year, on a weekday, I might see three or four angler cars during my travels. I saw three or four cars in several dirt pulloffs, and multiple solo vehicles. Fishing the Hous the last couple months has clearly spoiled me, as I’ve become accustomed to sharing the water with herons only.

Good news is that the water was nice and cool and there were bugs about. Even with all those other anglers, this was the only trout I saw hooked all day. Lovely halos. She took the Frenchie Nymph variant. Leaves were an issue, and will continue to be with this early foliage drop.

Three Great Early-Season Nymphs for Trout

What are the best nymphs for early-season trout? It’s hard to say. “Best,” after all, is not an absolute like the firmness of the earth or the sun rising in the east. But if you asked me make a choice, I’d tell you you could do a lot worse than these three proven nymph patterns — and the trout would agree.

Soft-Hackled Bead Head Pheasant Tail. Size it up, size it down, the pheasant tail remains a classic because it looks like so many things that trout like to eat. I love this version for its buggy peacock herl thorax and so-many-quivering-sexy-legs of a soft hackle. For recipe and tying video, click here.

SHBHPT

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Frenchie Nymph Variant. The same fly as above — but different! We’ve traded the wiggly legs for a flashy hot spot. The result is a slimmer profile with different bite triggers that keeps this a high-confidence early-season nymph. What makes it variant? Unlike Lance Egan’s original, this has a brass bead, not tungsten, and it’s tied on a scud hook. (Since I don’t Euro-nymph, I rarely use tungsten beads in my nymphs.) For recipe and tying video, click here.

FrenchieVariant

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Rainbow Warrior Variant. Another Lance Egan creation, this version uses a brass bead instead of tungsten (see Frenchie, above) and omits the mylar wing case. The Rainbow Warrior takes the flashy attractor nymph to a whole new level.  Good stuff!

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Hook: TMC 2457 size 12-22
Bead: Silver, to size
Thread: Red 6/0 or 8/0
Tail: 5-6 pheasant tail fibers fibers
Body: UTC Pearl mylar, 3/64″
Thorax: Rainbow Sow Scud dubbing

The best winter nymph patterns are the ones that inspire confidence

I’ve got nymphing on my brain. I’m hoping to get out this week and scratch that itch, but right now I’m chained to the computer. So here are some of my favorite winter nymph patterns. It’s a short list — I like to keep things simple. These are all high-confidence patterns, which makes them the best nymphs for me. What nymphs do you like to fish in the winter?

You’ll find a lot of tiny bugs in the cold months, especially on a tailwater, so going small with your nymphs is usually a good idea. This late winter beauty fell for a size 18 (2x short) BHPT.

3-10-14 Brown

Frenchie Nymph Variant. A little flash, a little color, a little contrast, a little natural brown means a lot of good nymphing mojo

Squirrel and Ginger Beadhead. Sans bead, one of my favorite caddis emergers. Add a black brass bead and deepwater magic ensues.

G-R Blue Bead Midge. Love this fly in winter when the flows aren’t too high or fast. Make it your top dropper, and if the trout are on small stuff, hold on.

Rainbow Warrior. I like this fly on brighter days. (That’s a general rule of thumb for me: if a fly is based on flash and shine, it won’t do its job as well on overcast days). The Rainbow Warriors are on the cork to the left in the linked shot.

Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail. Sizes 12-14, with a bead, this is my point fly on a two-fly nymph rig. Size 16-20, no bead head, it’s a terrific top dropper. Looks like a ton of bugs in general.

Hare and Copper Variant. What’s there not to like about Pheasant Tail, Red Fox Squirrel, and Hare’s ear? Oh, and there’s a copper bead, too. Sign me up!

My tying bench is a mess (oh, like yours is all neat and clean?)

There comes a time every year when I declare my tying bench a disaster area. I’ve been busy churning out flies for clients and myself all summer, and there’s never any time to put things back where they belong — let alone sweep up that mountain of shaved deer hair. OK, if you’re one of those few who keeps things neat and tidy, I humbly bow before your uncluttered presence. For me, a clean tying area is going to have to be a winter project.

Live and in the studio. No edits!

MessyDesk

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Oscar Madison bench, Felix Unger results. Some bugs for the Farmington this week.

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Farmington River Report 6/13/19: Fish on!

Mark is a repeat client, and yesterday he wanted to work on his nymphing. We picked a great day for it: moderate-to-high flows, overcast, rain, showers, cold (54 degrees in mid-June? Really?). We hit three marks below the Permanent TMA and found multiple fish willing to play in all of them. The method was a combination of indicator and tight line nymphing, both using a drop-shot rig. We fished a size 16 Starling and Herl top dropper and a size 14 Frenchie variant on point; the trout found favor with both flies.

Trutta buttah, the best fish of the day, a some-teen inch wild brown that hammered the Frenchie. Love those pecs! Great job playing and landing by Mark.

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Pure paar pulchritude. This yearling was my personal favorite, a testament to the fertile nature of the river. He selected the Starling and Herl. Mark also took a half-dozen rainbows of varying size, all of which were more than happy to treat us to aerials and other obstreperous behavior.

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A shout out to Mark who has vastly improved his nymphing skills: line/leader management, quality drifts, and especially hook sets. Well done, and thanks for a great day.

Farmington River Report 5/23/19: Nymph-o-Mania!

You know it’s a great 2 hours of fishing when you lose count of the trout you land. Drop-shot nymphing was the method, straight line and indicator, and the action was hot from start to finish. Since the lower river was below 1,000cfs for the first time in a month, and I had limited time, that’s where I headed. I made it to three pools from 12:30pm-2:30pm. and in each of them the trout were eager to jump on: two produced fish on the third cast, the other the first. Despite a strong caddis hatch, I didn’t see any risers, and unfortunately I didn’t make time to swing wets. But if you’re ready to do some nymphing, and you’re looking to book a date, now’s a good time to do it. Thanks to everyone who said hello!

Indicator Nymphing Tips #1 & 2: An upstream wind is great time to indicator nymph, because it slows the pace of the indicator on the surface. Look for a reason to set the hook on every drift. If that indicator twitches, stalls, slows, deviates — it doesn’t need to go under — set the hook! This lovely rainbow was such a case. My yellow yarn was bouncing merrily downstream, then slowed for just a moment. Bam. Set. Fish on.

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When there’s a substantial caddis hatch, and you’re nymphing with two flies, it’s almost never a bad idea to make your top dropper a Squirrel and Ginger. About half my fish came on this pattern (point fly was a Frenchie variant).

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I also had plenty of dramatic takes on the indicator, as in: now you see it, now you don’t. Likewise when I was tight line nymphing. I felt every single hit. This guy, looking very wild, clobbered the fly and fought well above his weight class.

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Farmington River Report 9/26/17: low and deep

I guided Ira and Dan yesterday. Hot, sunny, low flows (105 cfs above the permanent TMA), but the water was plenty cold. We spent the first half of the trip sifting through the pockets and seams of a 200 yard-long boulder field with a team of wets. After my success doing likewise on Monday, I was surprised that we didn’t get a touch. I was demoing a short line deep presentation in a deeper run when hook point connected with salmonid mouth. Armed with that new intel, we headed downstream and re-rigged for nymphing.

And that proved to be the difference between fishing and catching. We found fish in the hot water at the head of the run and just below in the front end. Both Dan and Ira proved themselves to be capable, thoughtful anglers, and it was rewarding to see their persistence pay off. The method was short line, no indicator, drop shot.

Ira probing current seams in the boulder field.

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A ray of light. Our first fish was this fine native, taken on a size 14 Frenchie variant.

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Dan being the man. He hooked a bunch of trout in this medium-sized pocket.

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Farmington River Report 8/29/17: Slow and getting low

I guided Ed today, and we were faced with a river that hasn’t been this low in months. Fear not, there’s still plenty of water (190 cfs in the permanent TMA) and plenty of trout, although the latter were a bit bashful today.

We worked on Ed’s nymphing and wet fly presentations which were pretty darn good already, a testament to the slowness of the day. Spot A was below the PTMA — there were a few bugs coming off, but the only trout we played with was a camera-shy rainbow that came on a nymph.

Ed presenting his wet fly wares.

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Off to Spot B within the PTMA. Same story — a few bugs coming off and a few random slasher/risers, but nothing consistent. We covered that pool subsurface top (wets) and bottom (nymphing, both indicator and short-line) to no avail, until the 11th hour.

Keep on keeping on, Ed, and the rewards will be measured in pounds, not inches.

Last cast, we managed this vividly-colored 16″ wild brown with paddle fins and dramatic spotting. Taken on a 2x short size 14 Frenchie variant. A good way to end a slow day.

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Fly Tying Video: Frenchie Nymph Variant

Totally different but the same. Howzat? Curved shank instead of straight. Copper instead of gold. Brass instead of tungsten. Pheasant tail tail and no red thread collar. I like this bug as the bottom fly on my drop-shot nymph rig. What do you know? The trout like it there, too.

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FrenchieOrange
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Hook: TMC2499SP-BL size 10-18
Bead: Copper (brass)
Thread: UNI 6/0 red
Tail/Abdomen: Pheasant tail fibers
Rib: Small copper wire
Thorax: Orange Ice Dub
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Frenchie Variant Rogues’ Gallery:

Farmington River wild brown, 12/28/16:

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Farmington River wild brown 3/20/17:

DCIM100GOPROG0013788.

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20+” Farmington River Survivor Strain, April 2020:

DCIM100GOPROG0013613.

 

Farmington River Report 12/28/16: Lockjaw

That was the general consensus up and down the river. Theories abounded, from snowmelt lowering the water temps to a grey, blustery day where the air temperatures never really spiked. I’ll throw in a pitiful amount of bugs and be done with it. I nymphed within and above the permanent TMA from 9:30am-2:30pm. Water was a cold 34 degrees, there were a few minor snow showers, and the river was running at the princely sum of 175cfs. Lots of folks out fishing today. Many thanks to those who kindly shared water.

There was a 15-minute window of consistent sunshine in the early afternoon — enough to get a few bugs going — and that’s when I had my only touch of the day. I often tell people that I’ll always sign up for one fish in the winter, and when it’s a tank of a high-teens brown, all the better.

The winning fly, a Frenchie variant, on the day-saving fish.

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